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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

A Super Bowl win by the Seahawks could help erase Seattle's miserable sports history

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SEATTLE - Standing in the middle of the locker room, nodding his head to the beat of the music thumping with bone shaking bass, Ben Haggerty absorbed the scene.

As he shook hands with players and coaches who for the most part lacked association to Seattle other than employment as members of the Seahawks, Haggerty watched the chaos around him with special appreciation as a hometown native.

Better than most, Haggerty knew how special the moment was as the Seahawks celebrated winning an NFC title and getting to the Super Bowl, because they happen so infrequently in Seattle.

"This is the team. At the beginning of the year, preseason, it was like this was the team to do it," said Haggerty, a Seattle native better known to his millions of fans as Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Macklemore. "All these guys, the defence, Russ, Pete, everybody, it's been an amazing year to watch. We deserve to be there."

The last sentence Macklemore uttered is the one that is so rare in Seattle. This is the region of jets and technology, of guitar riffs and coffee. It's not a place where expecting championships is the norm, because there's been so much disappointment in the past.

The last time one of Seattle's major franchises had a parade to celebrate a title came in 1979 when the SuperSonics won the NBA title and no one on the Seahawks current roster was born. To call Seattle's championship history thin is an understatement. The crushing losses along the way have become so plentiful that disappointment has become the default expectations for most fans in these parts.

But this group is different. And maybe that's why there is so much support behind these Super Bowl-bound Seahawks.

Seattle fans are not ones to puff out their chest with swagger and bravado because there's so little substance beyond the front. It's hard to brag on a national scale when the only professional titles won over the past 30-plus years came from your WNBA franchise.

That's not to belittle what the Seattle Storm accomplished, winning championships in 2004 and 2010. But it's not something that registers.

Even the success of the Seattle Sounders, winning two U.S. Open Cup championships and becoming the model for expansion success doesn't resonate beyond a select audience. Creating a world-respected soccer atmosphere is an achievement fans in Seattle take great pride about. Yet, it remains a blip on a broader scale.

That's why this group of Seahawks has taken hold of Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest the same way music like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and others swallowed the region in the late 1980s and early 90s. They have fun. They dance. They brag. They ride the thin border between confident and cocky and their coach encourages all those traits.

They are the antithesis of what Seattle has been. And because of that, their legions have grown exponentially. The "12th Man" is real — sometimes overly so — that has engulfed far more than just Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

"We have the best sports fans in America and to be able to give them this opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, possibly win a Super Bowl, that would be huge for this whole state," said Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, one of two Washington natives on the roster. "They've had our backs through the losses, through the wins, through the ups and the downs. They deserve it just as much."

This version of the Seahawks also differs because they've managed so far to meet the expectations heaped upon them. They haven't teased as teams in the past 20 years have.

They are not the 1994 Seattle SuperSonics who had the best record in the NBA during the regular season then became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in the opening round of the playoffs.

They aren't the 1995 Seattle Mariners, a feel-good story that helped save baseball in the Northwest by rallying from 13 games behind in August to win the AL West title then stunned the New York Yankees in a five-game division series victory but could go no further.

They're not the 1996 Sonics who had the misfortune of running into the 72-win Bulls in the NBA finals.

And they aren't the 2001 Mariners who tied the major league record with 116 regular-season wins but were no answer for the Yankees in the post-season.

It wasn't that long ago sports in Seattle had sunk to a point where it was in consideration as the most miserable sports town in the country. The 2008 year was exceptionally bad, the uppercuts coming one after another. It all started with the SuperSonics leaving Seattle after 41 years and relocating to Oklahoma City in the summer of 2008, a blow with wounds that still sting more than five years later. The Mariners lost 101 games with a payroll of more than $100 million. The Washington football team went 0-12 during the 2008 season and the Seahawks were 4-12.

There is optimism on the horizon — beyond just the Seahawks. There remain hopes of the NBA coming back and with it, an NHL franchise. The Mariners lured Robinson Cano away from New York as a free agent in the off-season. And the Sounders have one of the best American players in Clint Dempsey.

Yet all that hope will have a crowning achievement if the Seahawks can beat Denver and claim their first Super Bowl title.

"We all have those kinds of dreams. So we need to take note and recognize how special it is and be grateful for the guys that's helped us get there which is the guys in our room," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. " ... I think we're very fortunate to have come together at this time to make this happen."

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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